I have gone 28-hours without sleep. I was awake through the coldest night of winter so far with many other hardy souls from De Montfort University, Leicester, to demonstrate our solidarity with victims of breaches of human rights worldwide with a 24-hour vigil. I was willing to deprive myself of sleep and do this is because I believe that being civically and politically engaged is a crucially important attribute all students should learn and develop. Secondly a vigil is really interesting and entertaining, a place where views of different people from a variety of disciplines can come together and pull ideas apart and put them back together again and develop understanding. Finally, I believe that an outdoor vigil that lasts 24-hours is symbolic. It shows an unbroken chain of commitment that gives those suffering violations of human rights hope that there are good people out there who want to make the world a better place. (more…)
Using waste ground coffee to grow mushrooms, create a make-do-and-mend culture and find ways to stimulate a ‘sharing economy’ were at least three ideas for a ‘Smart City’ I didn’t see coming. They were given to me at Leicester’s first Proaction Café at the LCB Deport. I was asked to host a table at the event and seek a solution to my challenge – in my case consulting people on what does Leicester as a Smart City mean to you? It is part of what hopefully be a series of Proaction Café’s in the city led by Leicester Interchange. Billed as ‘Idea Generation’, the event invited people to come to support others to generate ideas on how they can address social issues that affect the lives of Leicester’s residents. Around 30 people joined the session and they were invited to choose which subject they would like to contribute to from the five table hosts at the event. (more…)
Here is a piece of writing that I did recently that ambitiously I was hoping to turn into a research paper and send to an academic journal. My PhD supervisors’ feedback was that the scope was too broad and I should refine it. Since that conversation, I have taken those words on board and I’m currently developing a more focused research plan, which will potentially spin-off a number of pieces of research from this initial idea. I wanted to investigate where students’ awareness of austerity is motivating them to volunteer in the new era of Higher Education tuition fees.I thought I would blog my original writing as it will prove a useful reference point as my ideas and writing develops on this subject area. Obviously I’ve made it blog friendly and cut some details around data gathering and methodology out – oh and there’s no findings! On the other hand, it does present the notion that somewhere within this subject matter, there is an opportunity for further investigation.
In a gloomy, dank school gymnasium in a backstreet of Berlin I got a tiny insight into what life is like for the displaced people of Syria who find themselves trying to settle in Germany. One sports hall in the complex was turned into a makeshift community centre for children and families. Adjacent to this was the living area for up to 150 families who have come to Germany in search of a better life. In my role as Head of Public Engagement at De Montfort University, I was with a delegation of (DMU) students researching the city’s response to the huge influx of Syrian people – so they can reinvigorate a programme to help refugees and asylum seekers in Leicester, (more…)
Earlier this week, the DMU Square Mile office received raw data showing the impact of the work of De Montfort University’s paired-reading mentors at New College, Leicester. It’s a spreadsheet of numbers showing reading ages in August 2014 and reading ages in June 2015 for around sixty 11-12 year-olds (year 7/8). Each child has attempted to improve his or her reading by working with a DMU undergraduate or community volunteer by meeting on a weekly basis and reading together. Move pupils have improved. It almost sounds too easy… But this requires the will of the pupil to attend and the volunteer to give up his or her spare time to attend. This is a big, yet rewarding, commitment for the student. Read some of the DMU Square Mile volunteering experiences by students Janvi Pala, Sarah Clark and Jonathan Boreland. Some of the colour-coded data on the spread sheet is black – where the child did not engage in the project, others are red, where insufficient progress was made, but thankfully this data shows that in many cases the spreadsheet glows green – indicating good progress.
There’s nothing like a couple of beers to get the conversation going. Unfortunately I mixed a couple of bottles of Berliner Kindl with research and started searching twitter for Citizen Science references. I ended up “chatting”, tweeting or whatever, to @johnagallo about Citizen Science. During the conversation I foolishly agreed to add my Opinions and Perspectives to his wiki-page for the concept of Place-based Citizen Science. So here goes. All I can do at this stage is accept the opportunity and underline that my research into this area is in its early stages. I discovered Citizen Science searching for something else. I was actually looking for studies of communities as co-creators of knowledge. Citizen Science fits that idea effectively. I was also looking at ideas where communities engaged in research are not taken for granted. (more…)
As I dig away at the ideas that my make my research, I do tend to come across ideas that fascinate me or put things in a context I hadn’t considered. This week’s reading was around the origins of university-community engagement. I had been aware of the public good, or benefit, of a university being borne out of the foundations of places like the University of Bologna or Humbolt, Berlin, but never actually considered what our oldest Higher Education institutions in the UK were up to. (more…)
Like the recently discovered mastertapes of Bob Dylan playing live in abasement or rerecorded versions of discarded Beatles tracks that became top ten hits or John Lewis adverts here is a completely useless bit of academic writing which will probably serve no purpose other than to compare whether it actually improves in coming years. It’s called Community and Participation for no other reason than that is what it is supposed to be about. (more…)